Why you need to invest in millennials now

By Evan Bleier
The Brief
Millennials will soon be the dominant group in the workforce. So how do you attract this notoriously fickle set and get them invested in your company? By investing in them first.    

“You better start swimmin’/Or you’ll sink like a stone/For the times they are a-changin’.”

Although it was released over 50 years ago and many millennials may never have even heard of the songwriter, much less the song, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” holds an important lesson or two for employers who want to capitalize on developing strong relationships with younger employees.

Was Dylan singing about succession planning? Probably not. However, the message that old dogs have to learn new tricks to keep up is as relevant now as it was back in 1964. Millennials will make up 75% of the worldwide workforce in about 10 years. Investing in them today to obtain their loyalty sounds like a good business decision. Yet a study by Bentley University and KRC Research found that 51% of business professionals said companies don’t invest in developing millennials because they are viewed as dispensable. As a consequence, “[Millennials] perceive themselves as more loyal to their values than to a particular company,” according to Orlando Barone of the Wharton School of Business.

“[Millennials] perceive themselves as more loyal to their values than to a particular company,” according to Orlando Barone of the Wharton School of Business. 

Luckily for employers in 2014, there are a number of ways to build relationships with millennials and reap the benefits. An analysis of Fortune 500 company employees aged 19-27 by Deloitte, concluded that “in order to keep Gen Y, companies must have programs for increased training, trusting, teaching and teamwork.” Getting out ahead of the trend now will pay off down the road. Here are three places to start:

Social responsibility
Although millennials are opportunity-driven and motivated by salary (like everyone else), according to the Bentley University study, 85% say it’s important for them to work for an ethical company. Members of Generation Y want to make their money, but they also want to be able to post about their job on Facebook. A socially responsible organization that gives back is likely going to be one with which millennials will seek to align. Demonstrate that your business cares about more than the bottom line, and millennials will take notice. 

Coaching and mentoring programs can also help draw and retain millennials. A study by Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab found that technology company employees who were enrolled in a mentorship program had a 23% higher retention rate than non-participants. Even better, the mentors had a higher retention rate than their non-mentoring peers as well. (These programs also carry the hidden benefit of putting older workers in a position where they can potentially learn from the youngsters.) 

A report by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, “Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace,” points out that millennials are proud of their tech knowledge and happy to share it. They’re also interested in continuing their education through online programs, an attitude that savvy employers should use to their advantage. Giving employees a chance to take part in online courses acknowledges their affinity for technology and flexible work environments. (It’s also cheap.)

The Takeaway: By showing a willingness to invest in younger employees with training, socially responsible programs and an e-friendly workplace—even in place of a bigger paycheck—employers can plan for the future, gain an advantage on their competition and maybe even save a few bucks. 

Evan Bleier is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Maxim, Huffington Post and United Press International. He is a frequent contributor to this blog.

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